CPS Better School Day Advisory Committee Update

Written by: Lee Haas

I attended the 1st committee meeting of the Longer School Day Community Advisory Committee (henceforth called the Better School Day Community Advisory Committee) and left feeling pretty optimistic.

So where does NPN come in… The role of the advisory committee is to review the plan throughout the school year and provide feedback to help inform the full rollout for 2012/13, inform our community and gather feedback, and help identify potential challenges and suggest possible solutions. So, please continue your conversations on our forum and feel free to comment below. I will continue to monitor the discussions and share them at the meetings, and will provide you with updates after each meeting.

Here are my take-aways from the meeting:

* CPS, and Mr. Brizard in particular, seem committed to creating a “better school day,” not just a longer school day. Extending our day (which will only bring it up to par with national averages -- we currently have 978 hours per year while New York has 1243 and Las Vegas has 1286) is just one part of this initiative.

* CPS feels that a longer school day is imperative to implementing the new Common Core curriculum which had been adopted by the State of Illinois and 44 other states.

* To assist with both implementing a longer school day as well as integrating the new curriculum, CPS is working to set up better area support systems and networks for administrators. More info on this topic. 

* All CPS schools WILL have a longer school day starting in the 2012/13 school year, according to CPS. Schools may choose to adopt the longer hours this current school year. These schools will serve somewhat as test pilots -- both CPS and this committee will be looking at what works and doesn’t work before setting CPS-wide standards for the longer day.

* CPS recognizes that schools vary and some have different missions. They intend to set benchmarks or guidelines that the schools must meet to achieve a “better school day,” but also provide schools with autonomy in implementing their plans. (Some schools, it was indicated, would have more autonomy than others depending on their abilities to create a “better school day” plan.)

* The addition of a full 90 minutes to the school day is not set in stone, although schools which adopt the longer hours this year -- and wish to receive the incentives -- are required to add 90 minutes. The “early adopters” this year are required to be in session for 7.5 hours with 390 minutes of instructional time, 45 minutes for lunch/recess and a 60 minute prep period for each teacher during the day.

* Exactly what will be done with the additional school time is also not set in stone. That’s part of what the committee will be looking at this year.

* Here is some of the suggestions that the committee had regarding what time should be used for:

  • Music & Art
  • Foreign Language
  • Longer lunch and recess
  • Inclusion of “social learning” [my term] including things such as life skills, civic duties, behavior, character development, implementation of something called the “Responsive Classroom”
  • More time for teacher peer interaction (This was felt to be one of the major benefits.)

* CPS would like a balanced approach focusing on core academics, enrichment and teacher collaboration.

* There was much discussion about the teachers’ part in these changes, and the Chicago Teachers’ Union (CTU) in particular. It was the sincere hope of the committee that we could divorce the “better school day” initiative from the contract negotiation issues. Most of those present felt that teachers are generally underappreciated and some are undercompensated. But there was also the belief that teachers – at least the ones who care about their profession – would be in support of this “better school day” if given adequate support and resources.

We look forward to keeping you informed as we learn more from CPS and the committee meetings.  Please keep us updated as you have questions and comments on this important topic for Chicago parents.

Posted on September 11, 2011 at 12:48 PM